Labor experts at the Worker Institute at Cornell ILR say the prospects of Andrew Puzder’s confirmation as labor secretary raises serious concerns about the Trump administration’s ability to enforce existing legal protections for workers as well as promote fairer policy and better labor standards.
Jeffrey Grabelsky, associate director of the Worker Institute at Cornell ILR, says Puzder is openly hostile to the role of the government in protecting workers.
“Andrew Puzder has been an outspoken critic and frequent violator of the very rules and regulations that the Labor Department is charged with enforcing and are designed to protect workers from the kinds of unscrupulous business practices that are rampant in Puzder’s fast food industry. In fact, his company’s success is based on paying workers low wages and cutting corners at their expense and often in violation of the law.
“At a time when we need to promote policies to reverse the long-term trend of wage stagnation and reduce growing economic inequality, Andrew Puzder’s continual opposition to meaningful increases in the minimum wage is problematic.
“The federal minimum wage is only $7.25 and has not increased since 2009. Like the other millionaires and billionaires in Trump’s cabinet, he makes more in a day than minimum wage earners make in a year. It is not at all surprising that he is insensitive to the plight of those workers.”
Maria Figueroa is chair of the Precarious Work Initiative, a research group at the Worker Institute at Cornell ILR that studies issues affecting low wage and contingent workers, says that challenges posed by the gig economy require innovative solutions, and increased budgets on workers’ protection.
“Puzder’s record raises deep concerns about how this administration is going to handle labor rights violations such as wage theft, including non-payment of salaries owed to workers, as well as disregard of minimum wage and overtime rules. These issues are a growing challenge faced by workers as a result of the emergence of the largely unregulated gig economy, and business practices such as franchising and subcontracting.
“In the current economic climate we need a labor secretary willing to allocate more resources to the implementation of existing laws, and to find innovative approaches to extend protections to workers in the gig economy.
“Unfortunately, if Puzder is confirmed we can only expect the defunding of enforcement agencies, an anti-worker approach to labor policy, and a regression in the legal protections workers have gained since the 1930s.”
Dania Rajendra, extension faculty at the Worker Institute at Cornell ILR, says Puzder’s record as an employer and lobbyist with the National Restaurant Association suggests he will do little to end discriminatory practices in low-wage work.
“Workers of color and women workers, regardless of their immigration status and at every income level, have serious concerns about Andrew Puzder’s abysmal record as an employer. Puzder helms a company in an industry widely known for sexism, racism and other discriminatory practices. Even by that standard, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are notable for the number and severity of the claims made against them.
“Puzder’s active participation in the National Restaurant Association (NRA) is another cause for concern, as that group has been instrumental in keeping the federal tipped minimum wage stuck at $2.13 since 1991.
“Many civil rights, human rights, women’s and labor organizations, including the AFL-CIO, the SEIU (home of the Fight for $15), and the Restaurant Opportunity Centers United, vigorously oppose Puzder’s nomination. They are defending decades of hard-won anti-discrimination laws and practices.
“The contention that Puzder’s regressive leadership is unconscionable in the private sector and makes him unfit for public office in general and to head the Labor Department in particular is well-substantiated.”
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